Spring training baseball is both awesome and terrible. It’s terrible for pretty obvious reasons. For one thing, players are not ready for game action, which is the exact reason these games are being played in the first place. So, even when a star player is in the game he’s not really playing at the star level we have come to expect. Of course, there’s also the matter of these star players not really playing much at all, and most of these games being filled with bench and minor-league players. However, that is also part of what makes this time of year fun. We get a chance to watch some players that we don’t get to see very often, if at all. With that in mind, I’m going to run through the players I am most excited to see in spring training action this year. You’ll notice a distinct lack of stars, not because I’m not excited to see them but rather because there’s really nothing for them to prove in camp. The list is in no particular order.
Like so many Red Sox fans I was incredibly excited for Swihart’s arrival throughout his run through the minors. As time has gone on things obviously haven’t gone according to plan — and a lot of these issues have been out of the player’s control — and I’ve found myself suddenly among those lowest on the former top prospect. I’m not nearly as confident as I once was that there is a major-league regular here, but I do still believe the talent is still there. That doesn’t just disappear, right? RIGHT?! He arguably has more to prove than anyone in camp, and he’s also going to be a catcher-by-trade playing a super utility role, an idea around which I cannot wrap my head. I have no idea how he’s going to hit, and I super have no idea what he’ll be like defensively at all of these different positions. My confidence level could be higher, but at the very least I’m fascinated to see how it plays out over the next six weeks.
While I’m lower on Swihart than many, I’ve recently started coming around on Brock Holt to the point where I may be higher on him than most. I don’t know, I haven’t done any real polling or anything. Really, the argument for or against the super utility man is all about how much you think his decline last year was due to his head injuries. I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the head injuries had a massive effect on him. Of course, those are also the types of issues that can linger for a long, long time, so even if that was the main factor behind his struggles there’s no guarantee they’ll go away heading into 2018. I’m certainly not qualified to diagnose him from my couch while I watch him play spring training baseball, but I’m still interested to see how sharp he looks and if he can be the old Brock Holt.
If you’ve read me this winter you probably know by now that I am weirdly confident in Ramirez being a good hitter again in 2018. At this point, it’s just a gut feel and I’ve dug myself so deep in this position that I’ll be legitimately shocked if he’s not good. Of course, that’s a me problem. Either way, I’ll be looking forward to seeing if he can crush baseballs this spring. Good Hanley is Fun Hanley.
Sam Travis is the Mike Trout of the Grapefruit League, and I’m always down to watch greatness.
Now, we move on to the non-roster invitees and I am all aboard the Jeremy Barfield train. Granted, we’re talking about a 29-year-old career minor leaguer who was playing in Indy Ball to start last year, so I’m not expecting superstardom or anything. Still, he’s a great story and based on social media he’s also a great dude. Plus, he hits dingers all the time. Who doesn’t love that? It’ll be cool to see him playing with some major leaguers, even if it doesn’t really count.
Chavis is the top prospect in camp this year, and while he doesn’t carry the cachet of some top camp prospects of recent years, he’s still someone to be excited about. He tore the minors up last year in a massive breakout, and if he can do that again this year we are going to see his stock rise significantly higher than where it is now. There are questions about his hit tool and while pitchers surely won’t be on their A-Game during camp it’ll be interesting to see how he reacts to his first time seeing pitchers of this caliber. Plus, the SeaDogs sat him every time I went to Hadlock in the second half last year like a bunch of jerks, so I’ve still never actually seen him play.
Poyner is certainly not the highest profile player at camp or even close to it, but he’s arguably the non-roster invitee who is most likely to make an impact on the major-league roster this year. The left-handed reliever has never really gained much in the way of prospect hype, but he’s done nothing but produce over the last couple years. The end of last season was particularly impressive when he posted a 0.94 ERA in Portland with 38 innings and over 12 strikeouts per nine innings. The Red Sox are lacking in left-handed depth out of the bullpen, and Poyner is arguably their best chance at a high-impact arm there, though it’d almost certainly come later in the year.
Saving the best for last? Quiroz is a fascinating player about which we know virtually nothing besides his stats from the Mexican League and some scouting reports here and there. He’s not someone who was at all on the radar before he was signed by the Red Sox early in the offseason, and very few of us have seen him play meaningful baseball. (He did play in the World Baseball Classic, though.) Those numbers and scouting reports are quite intriguing, though, and the Red Sox already had some success with an under-the-radar signing out of Mexico in Hector Velazquez. Quiroz won’t be the starting second baseman out of camp, but with a strong spring he could force his way to that job at some point in the year if Dustin Pedroia suffers any setbacks.